Friday, March 26, 2010

Common-Sense Family Planning Services = Healthier Women and State Savings

According to Delegate Heather R. Mizeur and Senator Catherine Pugh, Maryland family planning services for women are backwards. Presently, the Maryland Medical Assistance Program offers comprehensive family planning services to low-to-middle income women – but only after they have children.  Delegate Mizeur and Senator Pugh recognize how the present policy cheats women out of valuable preventative services and have introduced The Family Planning Works Act to address this disparity.

Ensuring that affordable family planning services are available is proven to be highly effective in allowing women to delay pregnancy until they feel prepared to have children.  The Family Planning Works Act would change the eligibility for receiving family planning services from having a child to an income based requirement.  As previously noted, when times are tough, women make cuts where they can.  For many this means foregoing annual gynecological visits, skipping birth control pills or stopping the use of birth control altogether.  This type of cost-cutting could be avoided if the current policy were corrected to meet the needs of women without children.

Not only would this commonsense legislation provide women with much needed health care, it would also save the state money in the long-run. The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association estimates that “every dollar spent to provide services in the nationwide network of publicly funded family planning clinics saves $4.02 in pregnancy-related and newborn care costs to Medicaid.” This means investing into family planning services equals big savings for taxpayers.

The program requires an initial investment of $2.3 million, but the projected savings makes this a very wise investment. With an estimated savings of $22 million per year, the measure would pay for itself in less than 2 months. It’s true that the state faces its own financial trouble, which is exactly why it should find the capital needed to implement this cost saving measure. Delegate Mizeur suggests several possible solutions including, budget cuts, temporary tax increases, and private foundation funding. 

Affordable and effective family planning services give women the chance to have healthy children when they are emotionally and financially able.  It also helps prevent unintended pregnancies and, therefore, reduces the rate of abortion.This is a solid piece of legislation that would not only benefit the state economically, but would also improve the health and lives of Maryland women and their families.  That’s why NPCM supports the bill and testified in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. It’s time for lawmakers look at the big picture and find a creative way to fund this proposal. 

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